Korea: Winter Camp – Cold Candy

Winter camp finishes up tomorrow and I’ve thrown together a K-Pop word challenge, now I’m killing time until a farewell something – the top English speakers aren’t at school, so I’m not 100% sure what we’re doing. Someone is leaving, we’re going somewhere with her, but not until 4:30PM, and class finished at 12:30. Why couldn’t it have been a late lunch at 1:30 or so? I don’t know either.

Winter Camp is an oddity for me, technically the students are on vacation but they can still come to school if they (or their parents) decide to send them. Normally I teach the students one or two classes a week, at the end of tomorrow I’ll have taught 21 classes, each class seven times in ten days.

I’m not complaining, my job is too easy.
But it’s also an optional class so I don’t want to teach them something really important and profound. It’s partly play. Partly some vocabulary boosts. Partly trying to make English interesting to teenagers.

Because I’m paid as well as I am and I only have 30 students (that might be dropping this year, I suspect it will be) I’m able to give them gifts and bonuses that I couldn’t do if I were at a school with 800-1000 students. I know all their names and have learned those students from the new class quickly enough, I’ve met six of them so far, one for the first time today – lesson six.

Due to this small number of students this past Monday I held a special class which we learned no English but instead made Snow Taffy or Snow Toffee. This is something that was a real treat when I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver because very rarely was there enough snow to actually attempt Snow Taffy. It also rarely turned out. I don’t blame my mother for this as she was using a wonky recipe that called for something to be added right at the end (vinegar she tells me) and then if it didn’t react right the taffy wouldn’t bind to the snow.

The pan and the 8000 Won bottle of maple syrup.

We poured a fair amount of taffy on the snow without making snow taffy. We did likely feed begs and rodents that managed to get under the sundeck some sugary treats though.

I searched about online and found a simplified recipe.
Maple syrup.
That’s it. One ingredient.
Add heat.

Syrup starting to heat.

This I could make! If I could find maple syrup. I went to the nearby local grocery store but they didn’t have anything remotely close. I then made the slightly further trek to Lotte Super, not as big as a Lotte Mart but about as big as grocery stores get in Dongducheon. They had ‘cake syrup.’ So cheap pancake syrup. That wouldn’t do. When I tried to explain this to the woman she wasn’t helpful, she took me back to the cake syrup and then showed me the pancake pre-mix batter. Even when I managed to find someone who could speak English and Korean the woman steadfastly returned to the cake syrup and batter.

Removing myself from her I managed to find out there was another place where I might be able to get Maple Syrup. And there was. On Yankee Road. A US Military comfort foods and clothing street… roughly 3 blocks from my house. I could have been there and back quicker than I walked to the first grocery store.

However, things weren’t quite done yet. I still had to find a store that had Maple Syrup. The first two I tried were duds and when I asked, in my broken Korean “어디?”, they were never willing to offer me help.

Sadly this isn’t uncommon in South Korea. It stems mostly from Koreans often using the excuse of not understand a waygook’s Korean, combined with not wanting to really speak English (even on a street dedicated to American goods) and then not caring since they weren’t about to make a sale.

At store three or four I did find the Maple Syrup.
And it was a costly 8000 Won for 250mL. But I didn’t truly mind since I like doing treats like this now and again.

...and cauldron bubble.

On Monday I took my hard found and expensive syrup to school and we set about making Snow Taffy. I rummaged up an acceptable pan, talked the science teacher into getting me a thermometer that reached 110 Celsius and then found a portable stove to cook it on.

We made Snow Taffy in the cafeteria. It really is just a case of heating the syrup on a medium-high heat and watching the temperature closely. Not hot enough the syrup won’t react properly to the snow. Too hot and the sugar starts to burn and blacken. Rather than simply pour the 110C syrup on the snow I packed up some cafeteria trays with snow so that we could be indoors (the room was chilly enough.)

Nearly ready for the next step. (And Mi-Seon smiling!)

The first batch I didn’t use enough snow so some of the syrup became taffy stuck to the trays. Still delicious but it took some work to pry free from the metal.

The second class’ batch was the best as I double the depth of the snow and the number of trays. When the syrup hits the snow it goes from 110C to around 0 in a matter of moments. When that happens it goes from liquid syrup to solid taffy. And the kids got to eat pure (expensive) sugary Snow Taffy.

I won’t be repeating the class anytime soon, and I did feel a touch unfortunate for those that missed out but… when it’s an optional class… sometimes there are rewards for attending.

Successful snow taffy!

Like a class of making snow taffy (no stirring) and then eating the delicious results. And I know that if my Gran was still alive she’d have enjoyed watching me cooking in Korea, even if I didn’t use her recipe.
My students and co-workers weren’t complaining.


3 thoughts on “Korea: Winter Camp – Cold Candy

  1. Fantastic, Byron.
    Your account of the whole procedure was fun to read. It’s easy to see that your cousins also enjoyed reliving the experience………..and I’m sure Gran did too!
    Excellent pictures too.
    I bet the students who opted to attend class that day enjoyed the special treat!

    The 8000 won is probably in line with good Maple Syrup from Canada. I know the product at the airport is very expensive. Am I correct that the 250 ml would be about $7.00? A one litre bottle here would be about $25-$30. That was a very nice treat for your students and one they will remember for many, many snowfalls. “Remember when we made snow taffy at Winter Camp ‘way back in 2011 with Byron Teacher?”
    Thanks for sharing your account of the day.

  2. I think I actually remember making some of that a very long time ago. If we get more snow next week then I just might try it again. Such a cool think to be able to do.

  3. Pingback: Melted Air Confection « Byron and his backpacks

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